JCCW Barbarities – Governor William Sprague

3 05 2012

Report of the Conduct of the War, Volume 3, pp. 474 – 476

WASHINGTON, April 11, 1862.

Governor WILLIAM SPRAGUE sworn and examined.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. What is your present position?

Answer. I am governor of the State of Rhode Island.

Question. You have recently visited the battle field of Bull Run?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. For the purpose of recovering the bodies of some of your soldiers who fell there last July?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Will you state, in your own way, what you saw and learned there, in reference to the treatment of our wounded and dead by the rebels after the battle of Bull Run?

Answer. As to the officers?

Question. Generally, in regard to all. We have been instructed by the Senate to investigate the statements made public, concerning the cruel and barbarous treatment of our wounded and dead.

Answer. In that part of the field where I was our wounded were taken to two different places; one was a storehouse at the point where the engagement first took place; the other was about three-quarters of a mile in the rear of the battle field. Colonel Slocum and Major Ballou were taken to a position at the rear. When the retreat commenced we had in this hospital, as it was termed, several wounded rebel officers; and there were also several of our men there, who were promised, if they would stay with them, that they should be released. They did remain. When I went out there a few days since I took three men with me to designate the places where these officers had been buried. On reaching the place we commenced digging for the bodies of Colonel Slocum and Major Ballou at the spot which was pointed out to us by those soldiers. While we were digging there some negro women came up and asked who we were looking for; and, at the same time, said that “Colonel Slogan” had been dug up by the rebels, some men of a Georgia regiment, his head cut off, and his body taken to a ravine some thirty or forty yards below, and there burned. We stopped digging and went to the place thus designated, where we found coals, ashes, and bones mingled together. A little distance from there we found a shirt and a blanket with large quantities of hair upon it. Everything there indicated the burning of a body there. We then returned and dug down at the spot indicated as the grave of Major Ballou, but found no body there. But at the spot designated as the place where Colonel Slocum was burned we found a box, which, upon having raised and opened, was found to contain the body of Colonel Slocum. The soldiers who had buried the bodies of Colonel Slocum and Major Ballou were satisfied that the grave that had been opened and the body taken out, beheaded, and burned, was that of Major Ballou, because it was not in the spot where Colonel Slocum was buried, but rather to the right of it. They at once said that the rebels had made a mistake, and taken the body of Major Ballou for that of Colonel Slocum. The shirt we found near the place where the body was burned I recognized as one belonging to Major Ballou, as I had been very intimate with him. We gathered up the ashes containing the portions of his remains that were left and put them in a coffin, together with his shirt, and the blanket and the hair found upon it, and some hair also that was brought to us by a civilian who had expostulated with the rebels against this barbarity.

Question. What was the name of that civilian?

Answer. I do not know.

Question. He was a resident there?

Answer. Yes, sir; he resided near Sudley church. After we had done this we went to that portion of the field where the battle had first commenced, and began to dig there for the remains of Captain Tower. We had brought a soldier with us to designate the place where he was buried, who had been wounded at the battle, and had seen from the window of the house in which he was placed the spot where Captain Tower was buried. On opening the ditch, or trench, where he was buried, we found it filled with bodies of soldiers, all buried with their faces downwards. After taking up some four or five of them, we discovered the remains of Captain Tower, mingled with those of the men, and took them and placed them in a coffin and brought them home.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. The position of these bodies was such that you were satisfied that they were buried intentionally with their faces downwards?

Answer. Undoubtedly; beyond all controversy.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. Did you consider that that was done as a mark of indignity?

Answer. Yes, sir; as an indignity.

Question. What could have been their object in doing these things, especially what they did with what they considered the body of Colonel Slocum?

Answer. Sheer brutality; nothing else. They did it on account of his courage and chivalry in forcing his regiment fearlessly and bravely upon them, and destroying about one-half of that Georgia regiment, which was made up of their best citizens.

Question. Were these barbarities perpetrated by that regiment?

Answer. By that same regiment, as I was told. We saw where their own dead were buried with marble head and foot stones, and the names upon them, while ours were buried, as I have stated, in trenches. I have published an order to my second regiment, to which these officers were attached, that I shall not be satisfied with what they shall do, unless they give an account of at least one rebel killed for each one of their own number.

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